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Europe, France, Germany, Italy

Hollande and Miliband take a right turn

European social democracy, having abandoned any residual shame, has started off on the road to neo-liberalism, without looking back, says Carlo Formenti

As if to steal from Italy’s Mario Monti the prize for the European political leader most decided on ridding himself of the limits on the excessive power of employers over the labour force, President Hollande – who despite presenting himself as a champion of economic policies not aligned with the neo-liberal dogmas – seems intent on introducing “reforms” that are not dissimilar to those launched by labour minister Elsa Fornero in Italy.

With the blessing of most of the unions (with the exception of the CGT and Force Ouvrière) and, of course, business associations, the French Government intends to introduce measures to ‘simplify’ industrial relations, in order to attract foreign investors frightened by the rigidity of the labour market in France.

This, for the same – unfounded – reasons that we have heard repeated ad nauseum by Monti’s ‘technical’ government: it will create more jobs, as was the case in Germany (too bad that employment levels Germans are favoured for very different reasons: productivity levels – and pay! – that is higher, but, above all, by exploiting the cheap labour force in other European countries to relocate, lowering production costs, to promote exports), and it will reduce the inequalities between regular workers and temporary workers (ie it will lower the wages and working conditions of the former to the level of latter!).

Responding to the sound of Hollande’s trumpet is Ed Miliband, England’s Labour leader who, according to polls, would have a good chance to defeat the Conservative Cameron at the next election. In a speech a few days ago to the Fabian Society, Miliband decreed the end of Tony Blair’s New Labour, recognizing – correctly – that it was a political experience dangerously unbalanced in favour of the rich.

But he also categorically rejected any return of the party to the ‘class’ tradition of Old Labour (these days anything that has even a whiff of protecting the interests of subordinate classes is dismissed as “old”, “ideological”, etc..). The future, he said, belongs to the One Nation Labour formula that evokes the overcoming of the divisions between rich and poor, left and right, in the name of a common interest (the tale of Menenio Agrippa, as we see, is still valid today, good for whenever you want to make a fool of the subordinate classes, convincing them that they have the same interests as the dominant ones).

By the way, we learn from his speech that, among the sacrificial lambs of this unlikely harmony between high and low society, will be migrant workers, whose flow Miliband is committed to curb, in accordance with the mood of the English ‘common people’, frightened by the ethnic competition. It seems that the more you insist on overcoming the Left / Right opposition, the more you just go to the Right.


14 January 2013

Translation by Revolting Europe

* Menenio Agrippa compared the plebeians and the patricians of ancient Rome to the arms and the stomach. The fable says that if the arms, tired of working, decide not to produce any more food, this weakens and damages the arms as well as the stomach.

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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